A Message from CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron
A few months ago, I attended a philosophy meetup group focusing on ethics. Each person was paired off with another group member to exchange ideas on a very specific question: “What core value would you like to practice more of in your own life?”
Immediately I thought of my best friend of 32 years, Christopher. One of the things I have always admired about him is his unyielding generosity. While I would like to think of myself as a relatively generous person, the difference between Christopher and me is that generosity is something I have had to mindfully cultivate. For him, generosity has always been his default setting. Not only does he spring into action each time he encounters a need, but he proactively thinks about how to give back to others in his daily life. I aspire to be more like him.
When we hear the word “generosity,” most of us think of donating money or volunteering with our church, synagogue, temple, or other community group. Donating time and money are both worthy endeavors, but they are not the only forms of generosity. Less often discussed is generosity of spirit—a less transactional and arguably more difficult value to practice, particularly during these politically divisive times.
When Christopher and I first met over three decades ago, the world was a very different place. I can remember a time when differing ideologies inspired impassioned disagreement, but not hatred. Neighbors and family members were invited to holiday parties and other gatherings because they were part of our community, even when their views did not philosophically or politically align with our own.
Today it has become commonplace to disregard the humanity of people with whom we disagree. Rather than attempting to understand the nuances of another person’s perspectives, we can be too quick to write them off completely based on one or two differences of opinion. This approach to judging people often flows into our decisions about which charities we think are worthy of our support. For example, we may be quicker to donate to a charity that helps children with cancer than to one that helps adults struggling with diseases that we believe were preventable had the people suffering made better lifestyle decisions. Or we may avoid donating to a religious charity that distributes food or medicine simply because we do not share the same religious beliefs.
This holiday season as you buy presents, attend family gatherings, pray at your place of worship, volunteer at your local food bank, donate to charity, and send out greeting cards, I hope you will join me in making a commitment to be more generous of spirit. This includes our decisions about which charities are worthy of our donations. Sometimes people we don’t particularly like or agree with still need our help. When we appeal to our higher selves, we can be generous with not only our money and our time, but also our spirit.